A television reporter and her cameraman are trapped inside a building quarantined by the CDC, after the outbreak of a mysterious virus which turns humans into bloodthirsty killers.A television reporter and her cameraman are trapped inside a building quarantined by the CDC, after the outbreak of a mysterious virus which turns humans into bloodthirsty killers.A television reporter and her cameraman are trapped inside a building quarantined by the CDC, after the outbreak of a mysterious virus which turns humans into bloodthirsty killers.
This week I have seen both 'Quarantine' and 'Rec' the film that 'Quarantine' is a remake of. 'Rec' is not without flaws but it is a very solid and chilling horror film. 'Quarantine' is able to expand on several of the strengths in 'Rec' while falling into a few pitfalls of it's own. Both films are about a TV news crew taping a show about what a night in the life of a fireman is like. A seemingly routine call turns out to be something much more and the news crew is trapped in a quickly quarantined building.
Giving credit where it is due, 'Quarantine' kept me on the edge of my seat for most of the movie. It lures you in with a very relaxed opening ten minutes but once you reach the building and the cop in charge asks why the camera crew is there, the whole tone of the movie changes. The fun and games, the light-hearted banter is gone. We only realize how serious it is though when they enter the apartment of an injured old woman. For me the tension starts with the entrance to the apartment and never lets up. Each new segment that the TV crew starts filming holds potential terror. The set design and the lighting are terrific and 'Quarantine' walks a careful tightrope of character action. So often in horror films the audience is yelling with frustration at what characters on the screen are doing because it all goes against common sense. There is a little bit of that early on but 'Quarantine' does a better job of playing to the characters and their panic. Characters die not through naivety or stupidity as much as they do from inevitability and inescapability. The key performance comes from Jennifer Carpenter.
The film's greatest strength and weakness at the same time, Carpenter is the focus of the camera because of her role as the reporter and it isn't an easy part to play. She is solid for the majority of the film but terror essentially overwhelms her with ten minutes to go and she is reduced to a sobbing, shrieking, shivering bowl of jello. Would I or anyone else be any better in the situation that 'Quarantine' creates? Hard for me to say but probably not. The problem is that there were three primary acting choices for her to make in the final ten minutes: she could play it as a hysteric (which she does), she could play it as numbing down her fear like the cameraman does in order to try and escape, or she could have been so overwhelmed by her fear that she becomes a functional catatonic working on autopilot. Carpenter's choice is probably the 'truest' choice for how people would react. That doesn't mean that it is going to make for good drama. Her transformation from confident and outgoing to hysterical jabbering is so jarring that it feels forced instead of real. The camera man keeps telling her to calm down when they've reached a potentially safe room but she is far beyond the calming down stage and well into the years of therapy one instead. I found it to be just too much and actually pulled me out of the horror and towards comedy instead.
'Rec' felt a bit more organic and gritty than 'Quarantine.' The performances are decent in both but you feel less of a connection to the characters in 'Quarantine.' Many are clearly there to serve as fodder with no attempt to seriously develop them. 'Rec' does a much better job, particularly when the reporter interviews each of the buildings residents. The five minutes spent in filming those sequences gave more of a stake to the audience into the well-being of those characters. That never really takes off in 'Quarantine' and I regret that they didn't follow the lead of 'Rec'. One thing that I thought 'Quarantine' did a much better job of was in plot clarity and how they provided information. The clues to the source of what is going on are much more explicit and come very early in the movie. 'Rec' dropped a few hints for the viewer to put together but relies on the final five minutes to give the major clues about patient zero. What patient zero is spreading is clearer in the remake and I thought the clarity benefited the plot. Of course by the time you find out about patient zero, Carpenter's character is beyond being able to help provide the audience with anymore real analytical power. Don't blink or you'll miss everything you need to know.
I give the slight edge to 'Rec', but certainly recommend 'Quarantine' to horror fans. It's problems aren't severe enough to detract from a very decent effort.
- Oct 17, 2008